The researchers identified eight genetic markers that correlate the disease, commonly referred to as anorexia, with some of the same genetic factors that influence the risk of psychiatric disorders – such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and anxiety; high physical activity; and metabolic and anthropometric features, such as a low body mass index (BMI).
"When we think about anorexia nervosa, we have to think that it's not just a psychiatric disorder, it's a metabolic disorder," senior researcher Cynthia Bulik told CNN.
Why is that significant? Anorexia is often treated as a purely psychiatric disorder ̵
The study may lead to the development of a drug for anorexia
 The study is both a breakthrough and a starting point, Bulik said.
Although researchers have now identified the role of metabolism in anorexia nervosa, they need to further study biology to understand what that role is and how it affects the role risk for anorexia. These include studying more DNA – targeting 100,000 samples – and working with neuroscientists and pharmacogeneticists to identify the underlying biological pathways and developmental treatments that actually target the disease's biology.
There are no drugs that effectively treat anorexia, and she is not convinced that medication alone will suffice. But it could help to recover and lower the mortality rate.
The team also wants to expand research on other eating disorders to better understand the genetic landscape of eating disorders as a whole.
In the meantime, Bulik said the team was grateful to all participants who provided their information and blood samples to the team.
"This work honors her suffering and the desperation of her families to understand and find effective treatments," she said.